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Mar 17, 2008 09:09 PM

Mexican dinner party

I am planning a Mexican dinner party where my guests will actually participate in the meal prep and we will eat together - social cooking and eating. I will have about 6 people. I want to make something unique (but not so unique I can't find the ingredients) and will WOW them. Any ideas for a great Cinco de Mayo dinner party?

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  1. We are planning to make a Tex/Mex meal for Easter instead of the traditional ham etc.
    Right now our menu looks like this:
    Fajitas (chicken and beef), Black refried beans, Tortilla Soup, Sweet Corn Cake, chips and salsa and dulce de leche caramel served over vanilla ice cream.

    1. Enchiladas (using home made tortillas), refried beans, spanish rice, carnitas, and condiments is what I deliver to the table when I want to "wow" my guests. I learned to make all the stuff from my mother (except for the carnitas) and can now turn out 3 dozen flour tortillas, 2 dozen enchiladas, carnitas, beans and rice to feed 12 in about 4 hours. Your guests can be kept busy rolling and griddling tortillas, prepping the filling for enchiladas, prepping the tortillas, stuffing and rolling and cooking. Beans and rice can be done fairly simply, but it seems "unique" because not many people do it (well, not many people I know, although we all like to cook). I sometimes add chicken tacos (you can boil or grill the chicken), and a "salsa" that is really a salad, or at least eats like one. Long list of ingredients, lots of fun prep time, add some good beer or wine and this will be a dinner to remember! If you want all the details, including recipes, email me at

      1 Reply
      1. re: gsshark

        gsshark--I would be most grateful if you would post your recipes, if you wouldn't mind. I, too, have a celebration coming up for which I am planning to serve a Mexican menu.


      2. Tamales are the perfect social meal prep dish and they are not hard to make, just works better with a lot of hands. You can have folks in charge of prepping the filling and some in charge of the masa dough - it doesn't take long, and then roll them together in an assembly line. Or you can make the filling ahead of time and just roll together.

        Add a side of beans, a salad with jicama, cabbage, red peppers and a lime vinaigrette...

        We have also done a "cooking lesson" with a bunch of teenage boys having them make burritos from scratch. We did a pork filling (would be better slow cooked, but we were trying to make a point with them), refried beans, rice, and had them make the flour tortillas. They had fun and were so impressed with themselves. And these were kids that are not Latino but come from an area with a large Mexican population.

        1. Eat_Nopal would be a great resource for this party. My own suggestion would be for a few crowd pleasers: guacamole, salsas verde and roja, pico de gallo, refried beans and chips to assemble together and sustain you while putting together the main dinner.

          For the unique mains, you could avoid burritos and tacos and go for something special like cochinita pibil (pork roasted in banana leaf), carnitas (shredded pork confit), chiles rellenos or posole (hominy soup). Accompany the meal with tortillas, cactus salad, elotes and the previous accompaniments you were snacking on.

          8 Replies
          1. re: JungMann

            I had posole in New Mexico last year and found it quite fatty. Was that just a bad recipe they made? What are elotes? Cactus salad - I'm not sure I can find the ingredients in Calgary. I could contact a South American fellow who has opened More Than Mangoes and brings in exotic fruits. Maybe he can find me some cactus. I think it is a good idea to make a few snacks first and nibble while cooking the mains.

            1. re: sarah galvin

              Posole can be fatty, but it all depends on what cut of meat you use. You could use a pork shoulder or you could use cheeks, or loin or even chicken if you really wanted to cut back on fat.

              Elotes are normally a street food popular among Mexicans of roasted corn topped with mayonnaise, sour cream, butter, cheese, lemon and chili powder. It is a fantastic way to redefine a vegetable that I'm sure is as common in Calgary as in Mexico.

              Cactus salad is the same as nopalitos or nopales. If you cannot get fresh, you can get canned at Boca Loca Mexican market in Calgary.

              Also the chipotle crema mentioned below is a fantasic dip that can easily be transformed into an aioli. I don't know that it's common in Mexico, but that dip goes like wildfire when I make it. Also, for dessert you might consider some fruits sprinkled with chili salt or a chipotle-ancho chili chocolate mousse. The former is an authentic Mexican snack, the latter is a nouveau presentation of traditional Aztec chocolate.

              1. re: JungMann

                Pozole is generally made from, shall we say, less desirable cuts of meat. The soups do tend to be fatty because of it. I make pozole rojo using Rick Bayless' recipe as a base. However, I make my own stock from pig's feet and aromatics to produce a rich stock that doesn't have a lot of fat. It gets a great deal of collagen from the feet, creating a smooth mouthfeel without the grease. I use the meat from the pig's feet and supplement with smoked pork tenderloin.

                I've received rave reviews from everyone who's tried it. I can post my recipe later this week, since I'll be making it and can jot down the ingredients. Warning, I only know how to make large quantities!

                  1. re: sarah galvin

                    It's pretty easy...loosely based on Rick Bayless' Pozole Rojo recipe.

                    2 to 3 pounds of pigs feet
                    1 large white onion, quartered
                    2 stalks celery, rough chop
                    2 - 4 cloves garlic, unpeeled but smashed
                    4 quarts cold water

                    Combine in a large (12 qt or larger) stock pot and bring to a boil, skimming off foam. Reduce and simmer for several hours (I let it go overnight). Let cool intact for best texture or strain while warm if in a hurry. Strain broth when cool, discarding veggies and feet. If you want the meat from the feet, clean and chop for later addition to soup.


                    6 14 oz cans of hominy (Juanita brand is best) (I had to use store brand this time and the texture is not as good).
                    Pork Stock
                    8 - 9 dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
                    1 - 2 pound pork tenderloin, seasoned and grilled or smoked, to your preferred taste. Dice to bite sized pieces and add to pig's feet meat, if using.
                    Salt to taste

                    Combine hominy, pork tenderloin and pork stock in a large stock pot. Bring slowly to a boil. In the meantime, cover chiles with hot water to cover (use the least amount of water possible). Keep submerged and soak for 20 - 30 minutes. Place chiles and soaking liquid in blender (in batches, if necessary) and puree. Pass chile paste blender to pot using a strainer (fine) to catch skins and seeds. Simmer for 1 - 2 hours, adding salt to taste during simmering period. Broth should be a rich burgundy color.

                    NOTE - Quantity of hominy is a personal choice. Soup should be brothy but not too brothy.

                    Note - Soup is BEST when cooked on day 1 and served on day 2 to allow flavors to bloom.

                    Serving Soup:

                    Ladle hot soup into serving bowls and pass garnishes, as desired.

                    Tortilla chips
                    Sliced Radishes
                    Shredded cabbage
                    Lime wedges

                  2. re: Dee S

                    You are right Dee - in fact, its traditionally made from the Pigs head! We have a Pozoleria down here in San Diego which I tried for the first time a week or two ago. Its wonderful

                    They give you the
                    > "Maciza" [meat] option
                    > "Surtido" [mixed] option

                    I opted for the ladder which contained lengua, oreja, cachete, paladar and some maciza thrown in for good measure. Here's my review:

                    If your worried about fat - I wouldn't add the magical chicharron - but for me it is a requisite accoutrement.

                    1. re: kare_raisu

                      I don't know if it's "traditionally" made from pigs head. Depends on where you come from. I learned to make pozole using pork neckbones. I later added cubed pork shoulder just for a richer soup. You let the neckbones and cubed pork cook until tender which is about 11/2 hours. Then you add the canned hominy (Mexican style is best and the closes thing to the fresh nixtamal that is traditionally used) that has been drained. Also add the red chile that you will be using, either canned or homemade and let it continue to cook for about 30 minutes. Serve with wedged lemon/lime, onions, cabbage, avocado and any other topping of choice. My mom would often add pinto beans cooked fresh from the pot. Serve with hot corn tortillas and slices of panela cheese.

                      1. re: Neta

                        I think the neck bones come from the head. I mentioned that maciza was added - which would be your shoulder. I am pretty anti-canned hominy - it is a travesty to the real deal - but I guess it will work in a pinch/

            2. There is nothing better than homemade tamales.

              If you have all your ingredients recipe for tamales, they are fun for family and guests to make. When I learned to make them my friend had brought over her sons and her husband to to enjoy the dinner when we were done. Although ours was an all day project, I needed to learn how to do it ALL so that I could make them by myself later.

              If you have your meats and sauces for red and green tamales ready, use masa that is already prepared and only needs broth worked in it, have the corn husks soaked, you will have the time of your life! Sitting around making these was very entertaining especially with a nice cocktail (not too many mind you) and you will really enjoy the freshness of the tamales. You can also make your own fillings not the traditional ones that I mentioned with pork and chicken. They are all good!

              4 Replies
              1. re: chef chicklet

                I have never made tamales. What original fillings could I possibly make? We barely have good Mexican food here. Would wild mushroom be good?

                1. re: sarah galvin

                  You can pretty much make custom tamales with anything. Masa dough with a little sauce, and then the ingredient of your choice.

                  If you made a ragu with the mushrooms that would be lovely!

                  Some people (not me) make them with sweet potato or yams. You could make them with just about any vegetable I would think.

                  1. re: sarah galvin

                    We made vegetarian tamales for Christmas. Masa dough using crisco instead of lard with corn, green chilies, onion, red bell pepper and cheese. We also made more traditional pork tamales with shredded spicy pork. We used the water from the pork to make the masa dough (colored it a nice pinkish-red) and gave the masa a lot of flavor.
                    Neither tamale was really spicy hot, just well seasoned. We save the heat for the green chile topping.

                    1. re: Pampatz

                      Yes adding the broth to the masa, is a must! It really makes such a difference. As someone else mentioned, whipping the masa and the lard/fat into the dough, add the broth, makes a delicate encasement for your filling of choice. I remember the last batch I made, and sitting there eating and making that "mmmmmm" sound with my husband.

                      It takes practice or watching someone that has made them many times to get it right. I think now after 10 years my tamales are there.

                      I prefer white corn for masa, but that is just a personal preference.